Skip to main content

Full text of "History And Human Relation"


the level shall be a reasonably high one, that the statesmen
on both sides are not saints, of course, competing with
•one another only in self-renunciation—a situation which
would defeat our mathematics—but are moderately
virtuous men, as men go in politics, anxious that their
countries shall come to no harm, and moved by national
self-interest to a degree that we must regard as com-
paratively reasonable. We will postulate that they have
just those faults which men can have who feel themselves
to be righteous and well-disposed—both sides anxious
to^avoid a war, but each desperately unsure about the
intentions of the other party; each beset by the devils
of fear and suspicion, therefore; and each side locked
in its own system of self-righteousness.

Allowing for all this—which means that the problem
before us is presented in what I should call its optimum
setting—then I should assert that here is a grand dia-
lectical jam of a kind that exasperates men—& terrible
deadlock that makes ordinary human beings even a little
more wilful than they ordinarily are. Here is the
absolute predicament and the irreducible dilemma—for
I shall have something to say later to those who assert
that it is no genuine predicament at all, and that every
schoolboy knows the solution to the problem. Even
granting throughout the whole of human nature no
more than the ordinary amount of human wilfulness
such as we ourselves may be said to possess, here are the
ingredients for a grand catastrophe. The greatest war
in history could be produced without the intervention
of any great criminals who might be out to do deliberate
harm in the world. It could be produced between two